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Wrong turn at the crossroads

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Seth from Jacksonville:
I have noticed that we have not had the same success running the ball as we did last year. Would you agree that this is due to a combination of our inability to stretch the field and that the center and guard positions are something that need to be addressed in the offseason?

Vic: I genuinely believe that better defense would fix everything. You just can't win in this league by allowing the yardage and points the Jaguars defense has allowed. The Jaguars defense is last in the league in yards per play and net passing yards per play, and next-to-last in the league in third-down defense and points per game. Those are critical categories. In my opinion, all of the focus needs to be on the defense because it affects everything else. When you fall behind as early and by as many points as the Jaguars have, you can't stick to the run. When opponents don't have to fear your defense, they can create ultra-aggressive game plans. They can attack your strength without fear of exposing their weakness because they know they can get the yardage and the points back. In other words, it's worth the risk. We all knew defense was going to be a problem. I remember writing an editorial in the days preceding the start of training camp that the progress or lack of progress the Jaguars make on defense would decide the team's fate in 2010. It has.

Dave from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
What is your evaluation of the offensive line play this year?

Vic: There are too many breakdowns. I saw a pulling guard whiff on his block yesterday and the result was that Maurice Jones-Drew was tackled for a loss. Whiffs can't be allowed to happen. When a lineman whiffs his block, the result is a tackle for a loss, a sack or, worst of all, disruption that results in a turnover. The whiffs have to be eliminated.

Charles from Port St. Lucie, FL:
Two weeks in a row, we've failed to score touchdowns on red-zone possessions from point-blank range that would have changed the complexion of both games. What do you think are the main reasons for the Jaguars' red-zone frustrations?

Vic: They didn't execute. What else is there to say? It's not as though they didn't want to score. It's not as though it's a weakness of the soul that caused them to commit a sin they must confess. Why didn't they score? Because the Chiefs defense was better.

James from Orlando, FL:
How do you feel about how Cox played? The Chiefs didn't seem to go his way too often, so I assume he was playing good coverage?

Vic: The Chiefs only threw 18 passes; they only threw six passes in the first half. That's like something out of the 1970's. You just don't see that anymore. This is not a game we should use to judge a cornerback. This is a game for judging the front seven and they get an "F." The Chiefs ran the ball 42 times. They pounded it. They did just what the Titans did in that final drive on Monday night, and that's what scares me. I didn't like that final drive by the Titans. It made me grit my teeth. Go ahead, fool me. Go ahead, run a tricky pass play and beat me deep. But don't ever shove the ball down my throat. You can't hold your head high after a game like that because you lost the battle of the hitting. That hurts.

John from Jacksonville:
What did the Chiefs do in the offseason that so dramatically improved their team that we so clearly have lacked?

Vic: Acquiring Thomas Jones helped, but the Chiefs didn't do it all in one offseason. Matt Cassel was acquired in 2009. Glenn Dorsey, Branden Albert, Brandon Flowers and Jamaal Charles were their first four picks of the 2008 draft. Dwayne Bowe was their first pick in '07. Tamba Hali was their first pick in '06. Derrick Johnson was their first pick in '05 and early indications were that he was a bust; those indications were wrong. This year's draft includes Eric Berry, Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas and Tony Moeaki. Do you see what's happening? They've drafted successfully and now it's kicking in. It didn't kick in last year, did it? That's because they were a draft away. The Chiefs have been building this team since 2005. What will it take for me to make people understand that this takes time?

Chris from Jacksonville:
Why is it a QB can end the down by taking a knee without drawing contact but any other ball possessor has to be down by contact, even though their knee touched the ground?

Vic: It's because the quarterback makes a whole lot of money, he's the most important player on the field and there are a limited supply of them in the world. You really needed me to explain that? As Joe Namath said, "We're the trophy."

Cory from Gainesville, FL:
How do you explain the Chargers? Would you say this is a legitimate case of it being the coaching?

Vic: No, I would say this is a legitimate case of them having missed their turn. Their window closed.

Damien from Jacksonville:
It's hard to see the safety play when you watch on TV sometimes, and I know the score does not suggest a good performance, but how did the safeties play?

Vic: Courtney Greene led the Jaguars in tackles. I'm not sure what the evaluation of his play in the passing game is because, frankly, the Chiefs didn't throw the ball often enough for me to know. I think Don Carey struggled. Of the two positions, the free safety can be expected to struggle a little more early in his development because there's a lot more thinking involved in his play. He has to make calls, he has to read coverage. Carey didn't get over in time on the Bowe long touchdown catch. Rashean Mathis settled at about 10-15 yards, at which point I believe he was to get help from Carey. Help arrived late. That's the way I read it. I could be wrong.

Richard from Irvine, CA:
Unlike a lot of fans, I'm not angry. I'm just disappointed that effort seemed to be lacking in the second half.

Vic: I, too, am disappointed. This was desperation time. I didn't see desperation.

Shon from Bryan, TX:
You've always said, "Don't take what the defense gives you, take what you want." It seems the Chiefs implemented that game plan. How do the Jags recover from this?

Vic: You're absolutely right. They are the number one rushing team in the league and they decided they were going to run the ball on the Jags. Never mind the Jags' pass-defense weakness. The Chiefs decided they were going to do what they do best, even if the Jags put nine in the box, which they did. How do you recover from that? I'm not sure, but it begins with everyone looking into the mirror.

Angel from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars are in trouble, Vic. With the upcoming schedule, it will be an amazing achievement to reach 4-5 more wins.

Vic: They absolutely are in trouble, if they don't find a way to improve dramatically. As I said in my "quick hits" recently, looking at the schedule, I don't see one game about which you can say "that's a win." Cleveland? Ask New Orleans about Cleveland. Oakland? Ask Denver about Oakland. I said last week that the Jaguars were facing a crossroads. They made a wrong turn in Kansas City and they better get back on the right road real soon or this could become a bitter season.

Steve from Kensington, MD:
I couldn't believe the Chiefs went for it on fourth-and-three with the chance to go up by two possessions. When will head coaches stop playing video-game football by refusing to punt or kick a field goal?

Vic: I didn't get it, either. Maybe Todd Haley doesn't have faith in his kicker. He's eight of 10 in field goal attempts with a long of 45. It also must be noted there was a 15 mph side wind that was gusting up to 25. What stunned me was the disrespect to think you could run for a first down on fourth-and-three. That's insulting. He did the same thing a little earlier on a third-and-six play.

Sam from Interlachen, FL:
Does any team actually practice tackling, or is it just the Jaguars that don't? I understand the injury possibilities, but how can you learn to tackle if you don't practice?

Vic: During the season, there are no tackling-practice drills that would be much more than a walk-through on proper technique. We're at the point that good tacklers are born, not made, and if you want to have a team of good tacklers, you've got to draft for it, instead of relying on teaching it.

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